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Why Music Videos Matter More Than Ever

Think the internet killed the video star? Music videos aren’t just as popular as they were in the days of TRL, they might be more relevant than ever before.

Though they have lost the TV screen-time that birthed them in the first place, we can thank the internet for reviving the video star and keeping music videos as relevant as ever. As we’ve mentioned before, today music videos are far more likely to be viewed, passed on, and talked about online than anywhere else, where they have managed to both evolve beyond what they once were and maintain their relevance in entertainment and youth culture.

TRL might be long-gone, but the rise of music videos’ popularity on the internet has made them a vital part of showing an artist’s point of view and engaging the Millennial audience. But they have also evolved even further. We’ve seen the rise of the music film, the beginning of video and tour trailers, and more. We’re coming out of a month where music videos dominated cultural conversation, and proved yet again that the medium is a force to be reckoned with. Thanks to internet culture, the way young consumers engage with music today, and not to mention many Millennial musicians and their fans, music videos might be more important today than they ever were before. Here are three reasons why: 

1. They’re being watched more than ever, and shared over, and over, and over…

Last week, Adele’s first new track in four years was released as a music video on Vevo, and the internet went straight-up crazy for it. In no time at all, “Hello” smashed previous records, becoming the biggest YouTube debut of 2015 with 50 million views in its first 48 hours. The video has currently been viewed over 113 MILLION times. According to The Daily Dot, that’s a combined 1,300 years of fans watching Adele calling her ex in beautiful sepia tones in just ONE WEEK. These numbers are staggering, and it’s not just their size that shows how powerful music videos are today. The speed at which those numbers racked up are just as significant: they’re the result of a viral phenom that can only be reached with a massive word-of-mouth movement, not to mention many fans watching that video over, and over, and over. Back in the day, fans would wait for MTV to play their favorite video, or tune in to TRL in hopes that it had made the top 10 that day—young consumers today are in control of the content, and that makes their engagement more intense, and gives those videos a chance to embed themselves in their everyday, or even hourly, behavior. 

2. View counts may be the true determination of a songs’ popularity today.

Adele was not the only artist to set the internet on fire last week. Drake’s “Hotline Bling” video quickly became an obsession for Millennial and teen viewers—but its wild popularity didn’t put the song on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. As with other industries (*cough, TV, cough*) traditional systems of measuring a song’s popularity don’t necessarily keep up with the many ways they can be accessed by consumers. In Drake’s case, the song, and it’s unique, hypnotic video, premiered on Apple Music, which doesn’t yet share its streaming data with Neilsen and Billboard—so views on the platform didn’t count towards the traditional measure of the song’s success. However, “Hotline Bling” currently has over 9 million views on YouTube, and The Verge reports that on Apple Music “the views were likely in the tens of millions” and its cultural impact is evident everywhere from Tumblr to late night TV. While Apple is working to make its data available to third parties, we doubt this will be the last time that a video’s view count is a better indication of its popularity than industry standards. 

3. They’re not just music videos, they’re meme-sources.

Both the videos we’ve talked about weren’t just watched and shared millions of times; thanks to internet culture they became major meme sources as well. Fans obsessed over the fact that Adele uses a flip phone in “Hello”, creating GIFs and countless social media posts commenting on the throwback tech. But Drake’s “Hotline Bling” was undoubtedly the meme-makers’ favorite. Fans created videos, Vines, GIFs, and clips of the song, creating countless jokes with the video’s footage at the center. An entire collection of Drake dancing to different songs has emerged online, pairing his “Hotline Bling” moves with everything from “Gasolina” to the Rugrats theme song. Creative Millennial souls also took the opportunity to Photoshop the footage, creating videos of Drake dancing with a light saber and Pokemon ball—both of which have become so viral they’re on Wired’s list of suggested last minute Halloween costumes. So what’s the significance of all this viral content? Once again, young viewers are in control of music video content in a way that previous generations never were. They’re taking the videos that would have at one point lived on a countdown list, and giving them a life of their own—and amping up their cultural significance in the process.